Pay Your Pastors Well

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7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?​ But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel..—1 Cor. 9:7-14​ NIV

​Paul continues to expand on the things that he could require the people to do for him.  Isn’t it normal for the person who is being served to expect to pay for the service? We pay the soldiers who protect us, the vintner is free to partake of his grapes and the wine he makes, the shepherd keeps some of the milk for himself. Paul refers them to the Law of Moses and the expectations of the plowman and the threshers. If we are being spiritually fed, then we need to expect to pay those that spend their time in preparing the spiritual meals. But, says Paul, I will put up with any amount of lack as long as I can preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. A full time pastor deserves to be paid enough to support his family. It should be more than just enough for them to “get by”, they have wants just as we and our families do. (And, just in case you are wondering, no, I am not a pastor).
Post 06-02-2015

Love Trumps Everything

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7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.—1 Cor. 8:7-13 NASB

​Paul continues his narrative​ on whether or not we, as Christians, are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols.  The point he is making is that when we exercise our liberty in Christ Jesus, we need to be sure that others are not offended or misled by watching us.  Though we have the knowledge that we have liberty because Jesus Christ died to set us free from the law and from sin, others do not have that knowledge.  They are accustomed to not eating meat sacrificed to idols because that is what the law has taught them. Just as some of the disciples still taught that you had to be circumcised because they did not yet have the understanding of their freedom in Christ. We, being the stronger, should then give up our freedom to do certain things.  Not because the action itself is a sin, but because it causes our brother or sister to stumble and we have sinned against them. Any sin against anyone is a sin against Christ. So we should use our knowledge, spoken in love, to edify our brothers and sisters and not to harm them.
Post 05-31-2015

Do We Eat or Not Eat?

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8 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge [a]makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. 4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that [b]there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.—1 Cor. 8:1-6 NASB

​We all possess knowledge, some less, some more. Knowledge can be defined as facts, information, skills or awareness of a situation. Knowledge is neither good nor evil in and of itself.  We determine whether it is good or evil by the way we use it. It can be evil if we allow our knowledge to cause us to be prideful. We can have an abundance of knowledge and yet be misled because we have not asked for wisdom to apply that knowledge to our daily lives. In this case, knowledge of the law said they should not eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. We know there is only one true God, so sacrificing to idols is sacrificing to “nothing”.  Use your liberty in Christ Jesus to eat or not eat the meat unless the eating of the meat causes a brother or sister to be offended. If you can eat it with a clear conscience and give God the glory because all things come from Him and through Him we live, then eat.

21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.—Romans 14:23 NIV

Post 05-30-2015

Cast All Your Cares Upon the Lord

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32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.—1 Cor. 7:32-35 NIV

​Paul continues to tell the Corinthians and us that the fewer concerns we have in this world, the more time we can devote to God.​ Again, Paul is not saying that we should never get married.  He is reminding us that for a marriage to work, it takes a huge investment of time and caring.  He even goes so far as to tell us how to do that in Ephesians 5. The spouses must be as devoted to each other as Jesus is to the church.  But the deeper question I see here is this:  If you weren’t married, would we spend any more time with the Lord?  The same is true of riches and possessions, those can take us away from God.  It appears the point Paul is making is that if you are not entangled in the cares of the world, you are freer to go if God says “go”.  If our hearts are set on loving God, we will make time to do that regardless of our situation. God wants us to love and serve Him in every situation and He makes a way for each of us to do that.  He wants us to depend on Him to take care of our concerns.

22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.–Psalm 55:22 NIV

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.–1 Peter 5:6,7 NIV
Post 05-28-2015

For Better or For Worse

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36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better. 39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.—1 Cor. 7:36-40 NIV

This is Paul’s warning against ​sex outside of marriage.  In those times, most marriages were pre-arranged, so the person knew who they would be marrying. Therefore, Paul could make this warning specific to a particular person.  In today’s world of dating, the warning would have to be generalized to mean any person with whom you are in any sort of social relationship.  The couple, if they are unable to control themselves physically, should either stop the relationship or agree to get married and do so before the physical relationship leads both of them to sin. Either decision will keep us from doing the wrong thing. That does not mean that we rush into marriage just so we can have sex. There are “good” things and then there are “God” things. Search for and do the “God” thing, not the thing that feels good. Experience teaches us that if our marriage choices are not soaked in prayer, the end result can be disastrous. Once the marriage is consummated, praying together will keep the marriage together.  Less than 1% of marriages where the couple pray together daily end in divorce.
If you make the decision to marry, then you are bound to each other “until death do us part”.  Jesus set the example for us since He will never forsake the church

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.—Eph. 5:31-33 NIV

Post 05-29-2015

The Night is Coming

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25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.  29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.–1 Cor. 7:25-31 NIV

​​There was never a time in the first century that the church was not under duress and persecution. Perhaps at the time of Paul’s writing this letter, the problem was more severe.  Whatever the situation was at that time, Paul felt it was good advice for a single person to stay that way and not add the obligation of a spouse and children to the weights they were already bearing. This was most likely a temporary injunction against marriage because of the situation.  It would be a stretch to try to make it fit into any argument against marriage since Paul so eloquently covers that in other Scriptures. It would be better to spend the short time that is left in serving God because the things of this world are temporary and passing away. Our most important work is to help to establish the Kingdom of God which is eternal.

4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.–John 9:4 NKJV

Post 05-27-2015

Preparations and Plans

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20 Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. 21 Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. 22 And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. 23 God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. 24 Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you.—1 Cor 7:20-24 NLT

​God calls us right where we are.​ He will never ask us to do something He has not prepared us to do. If we know nothing about missionary work and have not been trained to do it, we won’t be leaving for the mission field the day after we are saved (at least, not with God’s blessing). Except to tell others that you are saved, you probably shouldn’t be preaching or teaching until you have become grounded in the Scriptures. Jesus had forty days in the desert and withstood great temptations before He started His work here on earth. If Jesus needed some training, we can rest assured that all of us do as well. We can also look at Paul’s experience for an example. After his conversion on the Damascus road, God sent him to the desert of Arabia for three years to be trained by the Holy Spirit. God paid a high price for each of us and He is not going to waste our time. He will send us when He knows we are ready to go, not when we think we are. So until He calls and/or sends, we should just stay where we are doing what we are doing and rest in the knowledge that our salvation and calling were not by accident or coincidence, but for a higher purpose.

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.—Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Post 05-26-2015